It took a six-hour train ride from London to Perth and a half-hour drive to Crieff for my first sight of Knock Castle, but it was worth it. With its enchanting turrets and fairytale character, the castle has a magic that glows through the drizzle.
And when you meet the head chef and general manager, Jason Henderson — who along with his father features in the current Channel 4 hotel review series Four In A Bed — you can see where the magic comes from. In five years his family’s energy has transformed the castle from a health spa run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church into a luxury hotel and spa.
And the first change Jason made? An alcohol licence.
The wine, like the rest of the menu, is excellent and great value. Dinner is hearty, with choices from staple beer-battered fish and chips to more innovative creations such as pear and stilton soufflé. And you can’t beat Arbroath smokies for breakfast.
The staff strike just the right balance of formality and warmth, and the hotel feels at once homely and majestic. The decor – largely tartan – is traditional and tasteful, with cosy lounges and bars, a pool, gym, cinema, and reasonably-priced spa treatments delivered by a charming therapist.
And if you fancy seeing a bit more of Scotland, you can do it in style, with a ride in the Henderson helicopter to Edinburgh for £400.
Renovations are ongoing, which may account for the occasional slip. My bathroom was exquisite, with black marble steps leading to a sunken bath set into the turret – it doesn’t get more fairytale than that. But while the monogrammed sheets felt luxurious, the chintzy nylon bedspread had holes in it. As Jason says, there’s always room for improvement. But nonetheless, I found myself falling under the spell of Knock Castle, with its beautiful views, eccentric quirks, and the Hendersons’ peculiar brand of Scottish chutzpah.
RATES: Doubles from £72.50 based on two sharing with breakfast
Tel: 01764 650088